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Long-time US Congressman Dead at 82

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William Delahunt, a figure well-known in Massachusetts for his enduring commitment to public service, passed away at 82 on Saturday, March 30, 2024, at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts. He left behind a legacy of dedicated service and pioneering reforms. 

Delahunt’s journey through the halls of the U.S. Congress and the courts of Norfolk County paints a picture of a man devoted to his constituents, justice, and the betterment of society at large.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Delahunt embarked on his public service career as a ward councilor in Quincy, eventually making his way to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. However, it was as Norfolk County’s District Attorney that Delahunt made significant strides in criminal justice, particularly with the creation of the nation’s first prosecutorial unit dedicated to tackling domestic violence and sexual assault cases. This innovative approach not only transformed the legal landscape in Massachusetts but also set a precedent for other jurisdictions across the country.

In 1997, he transitioned to the federal stage, serving Massachusetts’s 10th Congressional District, a region encompassing the South Shore, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Throughout his tenure in Congress, Delahunt’s focus was never far from the issues affecting the everyday lives of his constituents. 

His efforts to secure heating oil from Venezuela for low-income residents during a particularly harsh winter in 2005 highlighted his commitment to practical solutions over political rhetoric. Despite criticism from some quarters, he stood firm, emphasizing his accountability to the people of Massachusetts rather than the prevailing political winds in Washington, D.C.

Delahunt’s work on the national and international stage, from serving on the House Judiciary Committee during critical periods such as President Clinton’s impeachment to his active role in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, demonstrated his comprehensive approach to governance. He was particularly noted for his efforts in Latin American policy and European relations and for advocating for lifting travel restrictions to Cuba, showcasing his belief in the importance of dialogue and diplomacy.

After deciding not to seek re-election in 2010, a decision he said was long in the making and not influenced by political calculations, Delahunt continued his advocacy and legal work. He joined the law firm Eckert Seamans, where he was remembered as a “tremendous colleague and dear friend” and continued to influence policy and legal practice until his death.

Delahunt’s foray into the burgeoning cannabis industry as the head of Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, though met with regulatory hurdles, underscored his willingness to engage with and lead on complex, emerging issues. 

His death has prompted tributes from across the political spectrum, reflecting the respect he garnered throughout his career. Former U.S. Senator John Kerry lamented the loss of Delahunt’s “powerful voice” for Massachusetts, while the firm Eckert Seamans and others in the legal community praised his dedication and impact.

Perhaps one of the most touching tributes came from his own family, who, in their statement, highlighted not just the public figure but the man they knew: a source of wisdom, solace, and humor. The void left by his absence is felt not just in the halls of power where he once walked but in the personal lives of those he touched.

In honoring Delahunt, the Norfolk County Superior Courthouse was named for him, a fitting tribute to a man whose work fundamentally transformed the justice system and improved community life in Massachusetts. This act of recognition speaks to the indelible mark Delahunt left on his state and country—a legacy of service, innovation, and compassion.

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